Theunissen Stadium-Mt. Pleasant, MI: Ahh…back in our home state!!! It was a long drive back, and we were dog tired, but not tired enough to miss a baseball game. On our way back home, we stopped in at my dads’ alma mater, Central Michigan, to see them take on their arch-rivals, the Western Michigan Broncos. We’ve only been to a hand-full of college ballparks, but Central’s Theunissen Stadium is the best one we’ve been at, and probably one of the nicer college stadiums in Michigan. This was CMU‘s final regular season game, so plenty of students and family in attendance to cheer on the home team. Before the game, some of the former baseball alumni and coaches were honored, including Coach Theunissen, who the stadium was named after. He threw out the first pitch to his grandson Nate Theunissen, who is now the Chippewas all-time hits leader. The game itself was a good one, with the Chips edging the Broncos 3-2. It was a hot day that drained us a bit, but the game went by pretty quick. I was excited, though, because I was about to be reunited with three most important people in my life… Final: CMU 3, WMU 2.
Coca-Cola Field-Buffalo, NY: After 19 short years, I finally returned to the site of my first Minor League baseball game-Buffalo, New York. Then known as Pilot Field, the improved Coca-Cola Field is not only the nicest park we were at on our trip, but one of the best I’ve ever been to. Buffalo is a big time city, and the Bisons give you a bit of the ‘Major League’ feel to it. Parking is rough, but the site-lines in the stadium were great. The gates opened at 5:00 for a pre-game party, and a chance to watch some batting practice. We were treated with a free concert on one of the dugouts, which was very entertaining. We watched the Gwinnett Braves take some batting practice and enjoyed the music. Out in right field, I was able to catch up with fellow bloggers Danny and Quinn from nybisons. They were doing an impressive job of shagging any baseball within a half-mile of the stadium. Getting these two to slow down for a bit to chat was a challenge, and I wish I had their energy. Both young men were very polite and even visited us in our seats later in the game to talk baseball. The game itself was a good one, and the Buffalo won a close one thanks to two monster home runs by Valentino Pascucci. We sat in the upper deck for this one, and had an awesome view of the action. I’m sure there is no bad seat at this ballpark. The staff and the fans all seemed very friendly, and helped make this game another great experience. We ate some great food, but no beer this time because we had a long drive back to Michigan after the game. Two more games to go in our home state… Final: Bisons 5, Braves 3.
University at Buffalo Bulls vs. Bowling Green State Falcons
Amherst Audubon Field-Amherst, NY: Trying to squeeze as much baseball into our trip as possible, we decided to take in some college baseball at the University at Buffalo. We had some extra time before the Buffalo Bisons game, and I personally enjoy the college game. UB has a nice campus, and we explored a bit and checked things out at their book store/gift shop. I was actually disappointed with Amherst Audubon Field, which looks a lot more like a high school field than one used for Division I baseball. I know baseball isn’t a big draw up north, and other sports like football and basketball bring in the revenue, but you would think they’d put something into a decent baseball stadium. We still had a fun time, and there were some scouts there looking for the ‘diamond in the rough’ type player, and they’re always fun to talk to. The weather was beautiful also, and to some good baseball free of charge is simply a plus. Other than us and the scouts, the rest of the crowd was primarily just friends and family of the players. It’s still a high level of baseball and well worth our time. Final: Buffalo 3, Bowling Green 6.
Pierce Arrow Museum
Buffalo, NY: Other than baseball, my other love is cars. I’m a guy, and guys just like classic cars. This is actually the third car museum we visited on this trip, and it’s located just a few blocks away from Coca-Cola Field in Buffalo. After the game at UB, we decided to check out some automotive mastery. The Pierce Arrow cars are really beautiful, and the museum had some other memorabilia like old gas pumps and signs. They’re in the process of moving into a bigger facility, but it was a great way to waste some time until the next ballgame. The best car museum we went to on this trip was in Norwich, NY, which is just north of Binghamton. When I get a chance, I might post some pics from that one with one of my B-Mets reviews.
Frontier Field-Rochester, NY: I really like Frontier Field, so I’m glad we were able to see two games here. And as this is the third time we’ve seen the Red Wings on this trip, I was starting to become a fan. Add the fact that there are five former Whitecaps on the Rochester roster (Clete Thomas, Wilkin Ramirez, Casey Fien, Luke French, and Mike Hollimon), and I’m a Red Wings supporter! There seemed to be a more festive atmosphere for the Red Wings than the E-Yanks, and they even had an autograph booth going, where I took the opportunity to have pitcher Matt Maloney sign a game ball for Brian (a future pitcher himself). As with the other ballparks we’ve doubled up on, we got seats a little higher up than last game to get a different perspective of things. Still great seats as always. The mascots Spikes and Mittsy were very active with the crowd, especially kids like myself. We even had a chance to chat with the Red Wings GM Dan Mason, who was extremely friendly. It’s nice to see these guys down interacting with the fans, and he was very interested in our trip and how his club and stadium compared to the others we’ve been to. The game itself was a lot of fun, and we were even treated to some extra innings, as Louisville bested the Wings 4-2 in 11. I was thrown another game ball, and made another amazing catch, so still went home happy! It was a long night, but well worth everything. Had to get a good nights sleep, as we had two games in Buffalo on tap for the next day. Final: Bats 4, Red Wings 2 in 11 innings.
NYSEG Stadium-Binghamton, NY: Our second game here in Binghamton, but we still couldn’t make it to the game early. We were busy with museums and other things that up-state New York had to offer, but we were still in our seats by the first pitch. We had great seats for this one, front row on the third base side that gave us a different perspective of the game. The game itself was a real ’barn-burner’, with the score 0-0 going into the ninth inning, but got exciting when the B-Mets won with a walk-off single. The high-light of the game for me was getting a game ball from Trenton center fielder Melky Mesa. He was running in from the outfield and launched one to me just past second base, and I simply made an amazing catch. It was a fun game for us, but still not much of a crowd, which surprised my again when the Mets and Yankees affiliates are playing. They had really good burgers off the grill here, though, which gave me something to go with my beer for the night. We stayed in town, but had a long trip back up to Rochester for a game the next day. Final: B-Mets 1, Thunder 0.
NYSEG Stadium-Binghamton, NY: Since it took us about half the time at the Hall of Fame than we expected, we decided to pick up an extra game in Binghamton. It rained all day in Cooperstown, and a little on our drive down, but turned into a beautiful night for baseball. Because heading down there was a last-minute decision, we didn’t get there real early and have as much time to poke around the park before game time. Someone was handing out vouchers outside of the stadium, too, for discounts, so we picked up our tickets for only $6.00 a piece, which is a great deal for baseball. NYSEG Stadium is a decent venue for Double-A (Eastern League), but we’ve been in better for Single-A. The crowd wasn’t as ‘baseball savvy’ as some of the other ones we’ve talked to on our trip, and they didn’t seem real into the game. Lots of people their drinking tons, which I have no problem with, but obvious they could care less about the game. You’d think they’re would be a better showing for the a matchup of the Mets and Yankees affiliates. Not real surprising to hear that this is the franchise rumored to be heading to Ottawa, Ontario in the future. I did like the fact here that there were plenty of vendors walking the stands, so you really could sit and not miss much of the game, and the concessions were reasonably priced. The mascots did a good job, too, of walking the stands and entertaining the kids. It was a chance for us to see more baseball, though, which is always a good thing. The Thunder really brought their bats this night and beat up the home team a bit. We’ll see if the Mets can bounce back the next night, as we’ll be back in Binghamton for the rematch. Final: Thunder 10, B-Mets 1.
Cooperstown, NY: The road to Cooperstown, New York may not be what you’d expect. In fact, it is almost a like travelling back in time, to a place without super highways and sky scrapers. The road is carved into the landscape of up-state New York, passing farms and classic homes. It’s a journey to a simpler time when baseball was king of all sports…as it should be. The town itself is quaint, with the feel of the turn of the century, but I didn’t see too much of it on the way there, as I was so excited to reach my destination…the National Baseball Hall of Fame…
The rest of the museum was sort of all over the place. It had no real flow to it, and you never really knew what you were going to see next. I’ve been to the Hockey HOF in Toronto, and I guess I was comparing that to the baseball one here in Cooperstown. I was disappointed to find that no other baseball was represented here other than MLB. Nothing on the Minor League, college baseball, international baseball (Olympics or WBC), Little League, Negro Leagues, or anything else. Even the display for the girls baseball was much smaller than I thought it would be. I did enjoy seeing some of the old memorabilia from the 1800′s and to see how the game evolved. There was plenty of room for more displays, though, and maybe recognizing some very good players and teams that will not make the Hall, but still meant a lot to the game of baseball. We had a fun time, and this was something that we just had to do to cross off our baseball bucket list, but I guess I was a little disappointed that there wasn’t more to it. And then seeing the prices in the gift shop simply just ticked me off a bit…
Cooperstown, NY: While in the Coop, checking out Doubleday Field is a must. It’s and old-time throwback stadium, but I really like it’s simplicity. They have a summer college team play there now, so it’s good to see it in use. It’s too bad I couldn’t have seen a game played here, though. We used the parking lot here, too, and just walked to the HOF.
Empire State Yankees vs. Durham Bulls
Frontier Field-Rochester, NY: While the Red Wings are away, the Yankees will play…in Frontier Field, that is. Due to a new stadium being built, the Scratnon/Wilkes Barre Yankees will be taking on the moniker of ‘Empire State’ for the season, and playing ‘home games’ in places such as Rochester and Syracuse while the home teams are out-of-town. This gave us a great opportunity to catch a game, and see two more teams, that we probably would not have seen otherwise. I found Frontier Field a very nice venue, and our seats could not have been better, front row on the third base side. The kids had a lot of fun watching this game on MiLB.TV, as they could see their daddy and papa quite a bit. The game itself flew by, as the Durham Bulls shut out the Yankees 1-0. Alex Cobb got the win on the mound for Durham, and I was surprised to see him pitching for the Rays when I turned the game on last night versus the Red Sox. We had a lot of fun here, and were excited about the fact we would be coming back in a few days to watch the Red Wings. I went right to bed after the game, though, as the next morning we would get up bright and early to get on the road to Cooperstown…Final: Bulls 1, Yankees 0.
Alliance Bank Stadium-Syracuse, NY: I know I’ve mentioned this before, but I love being at the ballpark early in the day. The grass still smells so fresh, and it just seems like the day was made for baseball, and nothing else. We were also blessed with another beautiful spring day to make us even more comfortable. Because of the noon start, eating lunch at the ballpark was essential. If you like hamburgers, this is the ballpark for you, as they have many different varieties, though they are pricey at $8 a piece. They offered good hot dogs, also, and a cold beer helped kick the day off. Since we sat in the front row for yesterday’s game, we decided to gain a little altitude and get a different perspective. One thing that I like about Bank Alliance Stadium, is that is does have a second deck to it, which is rare, even for Triple-A stadiums. The view of the game was fantastic, and in all honesty, if I had season tickets here, this is where they would be. I do like seeing at least a couple of games in the same ballpark, and getting a different feel for the crowds and seats. Syracuse cruised to another win, too. Final: Chiefs 6, Red Wings 4.
Syracuse University: While in the area, I always make time to visit the local colleges, especially when they have the prestige of the Orange of Syracuse. It is a very beautiful campus, and we also visited the gift shop/book store there as well. I didn’t realize how old the school was, but has some really stellar architecture.Photos property of Minoring In Baseball
Alliance Bank Stadium-Syracuse, NY: After almost nine straight hours on the road, we were finally ready to sit down and watch some baseball. Well, we weren’t thrilled with just sitting again, but being at a ballpark we’ve never been to before gave us a chance to walk around, explore, and mingle with the local fans. Alliance Bank Stadium is a decent venue, and the weather was perfect for a Mother’s Day at the ballgame. Don’t worry, I did call my mom and wish her a very happy Mother’s Day, and got her some souvenirs from our trip. Back to the game, it wasn’t a huge crowd, and the diehards can’t understand why people don’t come out and support the local team. I tend to agree, and think some people take it for granted. Living four hours from my ‘home team’ makes me appreciate the games that I am able to make it to. We had great seats in the front row down the third base line, just past the Chiefs dugout. The early game gave us a chance to get a good nights’ sleep, and be back at the ballpark the next morning…Final Score: Chiefs 4, Red Wings 2.